There’s no joy in seeing a newspaper close, even when it’s a
I’m sorry that financial reality is about to blot out the European even
as the single currency is about to be ushered in.
I’ve followed its Houdini-style escapades over the past eight years, and
marvelled. But nothing quite matched its descent into disaster last
January, when it was recast from being a liberal broadsheet - with a
quite good cultural magazine attached - into an inferior, unreadable
Eurosceptic business magazine. It’s been bizarre to hear its executives,
led by tarnished editor-in-chief Andrew Neil, gloat about losing the
old-style ’wrong sort’ of loyal readers, such as retired teachers in the
Dordogne, in the hopeless pursuit of rich bankers from Basle.
There are interesting lessons to be learned from the Barclay brothers’
overall experiences as proprietor/publishers. Even their patience, their
willingness to invest tens of millions of pounds, and think long term
could not get around the basic problem.
The European was conceived as a vanity product, not a genuine niche
product. Robert Maxwell, robber baron though he was, made it crystal
clear to me in 1990 that he was launching it as an act of faith, to
shape a rising generation of Europhiles. There are publications which
tap into this desire to escape from the mindset of national
parochialism: the Financial Times, the Herald Tribune, the Economist,
even the National Geographic.
Alas the European, in all of its guises, never came near it. At best it
was an airport lounge product for those in transit.
The consolation, of course, for the Barclays is that Sunday Business
brought back from the dead last February, just a month after the new
European, is showing very distinct signs of perkiness. Take the
announcement of a merger between Deutsche Bank and Banker’s Trust
costing thousands of jobs - the paper ran the news the week before it
So what’s its secret? First there is a slender specialist market
The Sunday newspapers, vast as they are, are under pressure to expand
personal finance and consumer financial coverage , rather than hard
reporting of the City. Second, Sunday Business has buried its reputation
for running dodgy stories. Its editor, Jeff Randall, experienced ex-City
editor of the Sunday Times, has stamped authority upon it. In other
words, the journalism, while far from perfect, is punchy and makes it
impossible to ignore. It has just launched its own distinguished panel
of ’wise men’ to shadow the Bank of England’s monetary committee.
The audited sales of 50,000 - it was given a goal of 80,000 over three
years - are not bad, though priced at 50 pence, it’s clearly a cheap
second or third specialist buy. It should face 1999 with confidence.